LETTER OF RECTOR MAJOR - Fr. EGIDIO VIGANO'
Fr EGIDIO VIGANÒ:
THE SALESIAN FAMILY
THE SALESIAN FAMILY: Introduction - Fidelity to a precious heritage - Don Bosco
belongs to the Church - Don Bosco father of a spiritual family - The unifying
force of his charism - Renewal of SGS - Forging ahead together - Problems
and prospects - Conclusion.
Rome, 24 February 1982Dear confreres,
is Ash Wednesday and our Lenten preparation for Easter begins. Love of Christ,
the Friend and Savior of the young, and following in his footsteps, constitute
the very soul of our vocation. In the sacrament of the Eucharist the Lord
urges us daily to renew with joy our dedication and labors for the young
and the working classes.
My travels through much of the Salesian world
in the last few years have made one thing very clear to me: there is a colossal
need everywhere of the Salesian vocation - in ever-increasing numbers and
in greater efficiency, authenticity and generosity. In every continent
there are so many young people hungering and thirsting for truth and love;
they are restlessly in search of friends like Don Bosco.
I have just returned from my third visit to
Africa: this time to the west of the continent. I was able to speak with our
first missionaries in Senegal and the neighboring countries. There is an urgent
need in the missions of a complete
Salesian presence: not just us
Salesians, but also Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Co-operators and
co-workers who are inspired with our Founder's project for youth and the working
The urgent needs of the countless numbers
of those for whom we work concern us deeply and make us realize that Don Bosco's
mission demands not only our own consecrated presence but all the Salesian
with its various groups.
In January, before leaving for Dakar, I was
able to be present at the Salesian Family's Week of Spirituality
at the Generalate; the topic was Vocations in the Salesian Family.
my return I was able to take part in a Symposium on the Salesian Family 
in which our specialists examined
in depth its history and charism.
At the conclusion of the General Chapter of
the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians I was particularly struck by an article
in their new Constitutions that gave me much pleasure; article
to the section that describes the identity of the Institute: it says, "Our
Institute is a living part of the Salesian Family that puts into practice
the spirit and mission of Don Bosco in different ways and expresses its perennial
freshness. The Rector Major of the Society of St Francis of Sales, as Don
Bosco's successor, is its animator and centre of unity. In the Salesian Family
we share the spiritual heritage of the Founder, and we offer, as happened
at Mornese, the distinctive contribution of our vocation". 
Indeed after my letters to the Don Bosco
and the Daughters of Mary Help
and the recognition by all the groups of the Salesian
Family that the Rector Major, successor of Don Bosco, is the centre of unity
and animation of their mutual communion, and after the careful study made
by the Councilor for the Salesian Family during the four years of his appointment,
it seems that this is the proper time to discuss the topic of the Salesian
Father John Raineri too has often asked me to make it the subject
of a circular letter so as to alert all confreres to the urgent importance
of their acceptance of their responsibilities in this matter with greater
awareness and effectiveness. For all these reasons I invite you to reflect
on this facet of our vocation that is so relevant and fruitful. I refer to
the Salesian Family as described in article 5 of our Constitutions and the
corresponding text of the Special General Chapter. 
I invite you, dear confreres, to meditate
on this matter, to discuss it in community and to put it in your good prayers.Fidelity to a precious heritage
Don Bosco's Salesian Family is an ecclesial fact.
It means sharing in Don Bosco's spirit and mission with the resultant
links between the various groups - Salesian confreres, Daughters of Mary Help
of Christians, Co-operators and other later groups.
All together constitute within the Church
a kind of spiritual kinship. Such a communion "has its origin in a complex
historical fact. In order to fulfill his vocation to save poor and abandoned
youth, Don Bosco sought a wide-spread grouping of apostolic forces linked
together in the unity and variety of a 'family'.  "
The concept has been lived out and tested
for more than a hundred years.
After Vatican II the People of God had the
duty of clarifying their identities and re-establishing their various charisms,
and this called for reflection and renewal. The result was that those who
shared the same charism. were moved to develop a more explicit awareness and
a closer union and collaboration among themselves.
All this makes it clear that the Salesian
is not something novel, imaginary or utopian. It is a concrete
fact, a spiritual reality. It has its own proper history, its own deep truth;
and it makes serious demands that must be met by our fidelity to Don Bosco
and our mission today.
"The Salesian Family",
read in the SGC, "is an ecclesial reality which becomes in sign and witness
of the vocation of its members through their special mission according to
the spirit of Don Bosco.
"The Salesian Family,
with the Church's teaching about herself, is an expression of communion consisting
of different ways of serving the People of God and integrating various vocations,
so as to show forth the richness of the Founder's charism.
"The Salesian Family
a unique spirituality, charismatic by nature, which enriches the whole Body
of the Church and constitutes an utterly distinctive Christian pedagogy." 
Perhaps some of us have not yet made the effort
to examine closely and objectively the providential steps that led to Don
Bosco's becoming a Founder,
and the total impact on the Church of his
We must gain greater insight into the creativeness
of Don Bosco and the apostolic perspective of his charism; he deserves our
recognition and respect as one of the really great Founders in the Church.
Our Father knew he was called by God to undertake a
vast mission on behalf of the young; to achieve this he saw clearly that he
was called to be a Founder
not simply of a Religious Institute but
of a mighty spiritual and apostolic movement. The vast horizons he envisioned
were inspired by God find the extensive and complex needs of those entrusted
to his care.
He felt the clarion call to undertake a distinctive
and set about translating it into practice on a
large and organized scale that was to involve all available forces. To quote
him: "Once it was enough to unite in prayer; but today evil is so prevalent,
especially affecting young boys and girls, that we need united action". 
On another occasion
he wrote, " We have initiated a series of projects that in the eyes of
worldly people would appear impractical and crazy; however, God has blessed
their beginnings and they are going ahead successfully. All the more reason
for prayer, thanksgiving, hope and vigilance".
Don Bosco was a man of generous horizons and daring courage;
to carry out his unique vocation he marshaled all his talents of intellect,
creativity and courage, and was urged on too by the inspiration and graces
of the Holy Spirit.
"At times he seemed to feel a kind of
universal responsibility for abandoned youth; but he was well aware that
the problems of the young were too vast for his works to cope with and must
be referred to specific persons with civil and ecclesial responsibilities.
In both cases it meant inviting people to interest themselves in the young
when they were not officially members of his institutions and worked instead
in parishes, in their families, in other cities districts". 
The problems of the multitudes of today's
young people in need vastly outnumber those of Don Bosco's time; and there
is obviously a far greater urgency to widen our horizons in our interpretation
and promotion of the Salesian vocation.
The SGC had already seen the Salesian Family
as one of the main avenues of our renewal:
Document I, no. 151, 'cannot fully rethink their vocation in the Church without
reference to those who together with them carry out the will of the Founder;
hence they seek a greater union of all whilst preserving the genuine diversity
of each' ". 
This is a truth that demands our serious attention:
our Salesian vocation, in its factual completeness, makes us participate
vitally in an experience of the Holy Spirit
lived and shared with so
many others and in which there is mutual exchange of its wealth 
and a more aware commitment to its
Every confrere must realize that his religious profession introduces
him into both Congregation and the Salesian Family: in this extensive field
he will find so much that will help him towards holiness and apostolic collaboration;
it opens up horizons of work that would seem to border on temerity; it puts
him in the vanguard of ecclesial and civil action.
My dear confreres, we must see the Salesian
Family as a very real fact; we must have faith in its growth; we must come
to know and love its own special nature; we must realize its many requirements
that will spur us on in fidelity to Don Bosco.Don Bosco belongs to the Church
To understand better the living heritage bequeathed
us by Don Bosco and the responsibilities that flow from it, we would do well
to reflect a little on the importance in the Church
God gives to every
Perhaps we are accustomed to regard Don Bosco
as the "private property" of our Congregation. This would be to
unwittingly distort his personality and reduce his function and transcendency.
Naturally we have a special affinity with him that helps us more easily to
approach him, know him, understand him and have a truer and more objective
appreciation of him; but by the same token we should be the more anxious to
better grasp his importance to the whole Church;
for to lessen his
ecclesial stature would mean lessening his sphere of influence. A Founder
has been granted a special charism for the good of all the People of God.
The Church recognizes this, rejoices in it, is enriched by its spiritual and
apostolic contribution, blesses its particular values, promotes and sustains
its distinctive character, demands that its peculiar identity be safeguarded
and defends its integrity. 
Paul VI reminds us that Founders have been
"raised up by God in the Church";
hence their disciples have
the obligation to be faithful" to their evangelical intentions". 
A Founder is a true ecclesial point of
and must not be reduced in size by any fussy though well-intentioned
parochialism that would only warp his special qualities and his real mission
The Council speaks of Founders as gifted expressions
of the vital reality of the Church. 
Unfortunately theologians have not yet made
an adequate study of the specific significance of this aspect insofar as it
actually expresses the Church. The personal action of a Founder is infused
into the very mystery of the Church in its historical development: he is raised
up in the Church and for the Church as one of the characteristic expressions
of its "life and holiness". 
Every Founder enjoys a kind of uniqueness
in the Church insofar as he is an initiator and a model. Last year in my letter
to the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians I pointed out three aspects of
this distinctiveness in our Father.
- He had a distinctive afflatus.
Don Bosco saw no other way to fulfill his calling except by being a Founder.
He was practically obliged to embark on a brand new kind of sanctification
and apostolate, a personal interpretation of the Gospel and the mystery of
Christ with a special adaptation to the signs of the times. This originality
meant a new" fusion" of the common elements of Christian holiness
that was well balanced, congenial and regulated; the virtues and the means
to holiness had their own proper place, quantity, symmetry and beauty that
- He achieved an extraordinary
form of holiness.
It is difficult to establish the level of this holiness,
but it cannot be identified with the holiness of a saint who was not a Founder
(e.g., St Joseph Cafasso). Don Bosco's extraordinary holiness invested him
with something of the novelty of a precursor. It drew people to him; it made
him a referral point for agreements and differences; it made him a patriarch,
a prophet. He was never a recluse, but rather a catalyst; he carried the future
in his hands.
- He worked indefatigably to
increase his spiritual family.
If the "experience of the Holy Spirit"
is not transmitted, received and then lived, cherished, perfected and developed
by the Founder's direct disciples and their adherents, there is no founding
charism. This is of basic importance. Don Bosco possessed his own proper gifts
and they remained with him until his death; through a divine disposition
they made him a fruitful centre of radiation and attraction, a "giant
of the spirit", as Pius XI called him; and he bequeathed to us a rich
and well-defined spiritual heritage. 
These specific marks of Don Bosco as a Founder
were translated into his operational overall project, which is "substantially
one and possesses its own special characteristics to which it is possible
to reduce the many aims and actions of his busy and vigorous life". 
In his well planned activities our Father
has also given to the Church an educative method bearing the marks of genius,
a system that has given rise to a set of pedagogical and pastoral principles
accepted far and wide, a system that answers to the needs of the young and
the working classes, a Preventive System
that has made saints out of
both educators and their charges.
Don Bosco's overall project gathers together
and organizes a complex association made up of coworkers of all kinds: a
that brings the Gospel to the young through the Preventive System.
To be truly loyal to Don Bosco
as our Founder it is plain that we must see him in an ecclesial context.Don Bosco father of a spiritual Family
To journey back to our origins, we find Don
Bosco with a heart overflowing with pastoral charity and gifted with a love
of predilection for the young. The first spark of the Salesian vocation is
love, an intense love, well-defined and apostolic, a love dedicated in a special
way to young people who are poor and abandoned. In his priestly heart is to
be found the primordial and crystalline spring waters of the whole Salesian
We are dealing here with a supernatural passion
that immerses the whole person within the mystery of the God-Savior; a charity
that finds its realization in a radical following of Christ whose anxious
arms stretch forth to save the young, the lowly, the needy. It is in Don Bosco
our Founder that we find the origins of the distinctiveness of the Salesian
charism that emphasizes through its twin fulcrums of God
the giving of oneself utterly to God in a mission for the young.
context and thrust of this primordial force were graphically instanced in
his Oratory apostolate.
After all, for Don Bosco the Oratory
what we call today the Youth Apostolate,
that is, a factual commitment
to the Gospel-education of confused and neglected young people in a critical
period fraught with the explosive results of rapid structural and cultural
Our origins are indeed centered in an Oratorian
In other words, we see a priest of the local Church of Turin possessed
of an overwhelming apostolic passion for poor and abandoned youngsters. Such
an apostolic zeal cannot be explained without the initiative of Christ the
Savior and the loving care of Mary, who both knew new life from the tomb and
are the guides of salvation-history; and the definitive implementation of
this Oratorian predilection
is linked to the guidance of Pope Pius
IX who directed Don Bosco in his founding efforts.
The Spirit of the Lord filled this zealous
priest so well endowed with natural talents and special gifts. He perceived
more and more how urgent and far-reaching his work was t6 be. He set about
with realistic efficiency to gather together, inspire and organize the greatest
possible number of coworkers he could get. Thus he instituted his Oratory
in Turin. His collaborators were priests, mothers of families,
layfolk in comfortable circumstances, young people and adults - all under
his guiding hand. He sought far and wide for as many as possible; and above
all, he wanted them united.
This variegated group of co-workers he organized
and called The Congregation of Saint Francis de Sales,
and then set
about putting it on a stable basis. He received the official approval of Archbishop
Fransoni in 1850; he obtained canonical recognition in 1852. One of the directives
stated that is was the responsibility of the Superior" to preserve unity
of spirit, discipline and direction". 
A few remarks are in order regarding
this embryonic "Congregation for the Young".
First of all the word congregation:
it was used in its general and etymological sense of congregating
it meant a group of persons united to work together
for the same spiritual and apostolic purpose. In those days there was the
wide-spread Congregation of Christian Doctrine
(of the Council of Trent),
and indeed other various Congregations
both layfolk and priests. It is interesting to note that Don Bosco referred
to his" congregated members" as workers, co-operators, collaborators,
benefactors - that is, people dedicated to good works and committed in a
practical way to the apostolate. Indeed we can gauge the mettle of his"
congregated workers" by the fact that they belonged to the Oratory
in other words, their Christian and educative activities
were in line with the Valdocco type Oratory.
Why should his" Congregation" be
under the patronage of Saint Francis de Sales? He wanted the spirit of Saint
Francis to imbue the life and work of his collaborators among the young kindness,
gentleness, trust; a joyful outlook of healthy humanism with apostolic dialogue
and friendliness that would all go to make up an integrated educational method. 
So far Don Bosco's' work was on a diocesan
scale only. Little by little and along the road of hardship and suffering
it was to assume an ecclesial universality.
From 1850 onwards the Holy Spirit was to form
Don Bosco slowly and carefully into the Founder of his definitive Salesian
The idea of the kind of foundation his vocation
demanded was not immediately clear to him: its details and juridical structure
were still somewhat nebulous. The knowledge of God's special gift, even in
a Founder, is generally not a sudden revelation but develops by stages and
sometimes in a roundabout way. God sends prophets into his Church and expects
them to find their way gradually and laboriously. Deep within himself Don
Bosco was sure that Providence was leading him step by step to be a Founder.
He was personally concerned to "let it be known that God himself guided
all things at all times". 
He said to his rectors on 2 February 1976, "The Congregation
has not taken a single step without the backing of some supernatural happening;
there has never been any change, any improvement, any development, that was
not preceded by a command of the Lord". 
Fairly soon, at least by
1854, he saw
the need for distinguishing two categories of workers: "Those who were
unattached and felt that this life was their true vocation: these lived in
community in what they always considered the mother-house and centre of the
pious association. The Supreme Pontiff advised that the association be called
the Pious Society of St Francis de Sales,
and it is still so-called.
The other collaborators, that is, the 'externs', lived with their families
in the world and continued to promote the Oratory apostolate:
still kept the names of Union
or Congregation of St Francis of Sales,
they are dependent on the Society and
united with its members in working for needy youth". 
In December 1859 he gave a specific form to
the special central part
of the Association for the Oratories: it was
to be the nucleus of promotion and the secure and stable bond of union. With
this in mind he drew up Constitutions and Regulations for this" intern"
group that would also serve as a rule of life for all "extern" co-workers.
These latter would be incorporated with the Pious Society either as "extern"
members or members living and working completely in the world. All would draw
their inspiration from the same Rule.
Up to this point only boys were envisaged.
But Providence was inspiring him with
thoughts of doing similar things for girls. On Pius IX's advice he organized
the women co-operators; and besides, in Mornese in the diocese of Acqui, Mary
had in a wonderful way prepared for him a chosen group of apostolic young
women inspired by Mary Domenica Mazzarello and under the guidance of Father
Pestarino. With them he was able to found in 1872 the Institute of Daughters
of Mary Help of Christians, also incorporated with the Pious Society. Their
first Constitutions were entitled Rules for the Daughters of Mary Help
of Christians incorporated with the Salesian Society.
They lived in communion
of spirit and mission under the guidance and direction of Don Bosco and his
sons. Their work was to do for girls what Valdocco was doing for boys.
The work had now extended beyond the diocese,
and consequently in 1864 the Holy See granted the Decretum Laudis
the Pious Society, and later (3 April 1874), the approval of the Constitutions.
This development gave rise to certain grave difficulties and the need to rethink
the Statutes for the" extern members".
Thus it came about that they were given a
juridical form in the Union' of Salesian Co-operators
on 12 July 1876.
Don Bosco drew up a set of Regulations for them: they were to have the same
spirit and mission as the Salesians and were also to be incorporated with
the Salesian Society.
Thus we have an historical and documented
fact: Don Bosco heard the call of the Spirit of the Lord to commit himself
tirelessly to the salvation of the young; for this purpose he founded a large
apostolic association, a spiritual family of different groups and categories
closely united and systematically structured. The three basic groups of the
Salesian Family were thus instituted personally by Don Bosco and are the Salesians,
the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and the Co-operators. When the Past
Pupils began visiting Don Bosco for the celebration of his name-day he used
exhort them to be dedicated apostles and join the Cooperators.  After the death of our Founder
in 1888 an unfortunate
problem arose regarding the juridical aspect of the incorporation of the Daughters
of Mary Help of Christians with the Pious Society. In 1901 a decree of the
Holy See Normae secundum quas
demanded the juridical separation of
women's Institutes with simple vows from the respective male Congregations.
The separation was regretted, but it did not lessen the family links and the
collaboration between the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and the Salesian
Eventually in 1917, through the good offices
of Cardinal Cagliero, a temporary new juridical link was granted. This link
was stabilized by a decree of 24 April 1940 that appointed the Rector Major
as Apostolic Delegate of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians.
The painful events concerning the separation
of the" extern members" and the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians
from the Pious Society actually served to prevent confusion about certain
ecclesiastical structures: these links were variables and need to be adapted
to suit new situations - hence they were quite distinct from the permanent
and unchangeable charism that all the groups shared for the young and the
working classes. In fact their common aims and responsibilities never waned;
and after Vatican II they took on greater clarity and a new lease of life.
Since the death of our Founder the Spirit
of the Lord has enriched the Salesian Family with other groups that have burgeoned
forth from its vitality to meet new needs and different situations. These
of course have all been participants in the Salesian mission
those benefited by Salesian action.
To mention just some of these new groups:
- the Association of Past Pupils
of their Salesian education";
- the Don Bosco Volunteers,
founded by Father
Philip Rinaldi at Turin in the context of Salesians, Daughters of Mary Help
of Christians, Cooperators and Past Pupils. (Father Rinaldi thus intended
to implement Don Bosco's project regarding the" extern members"
who would be an effective means for taking his spirit into the heart of the
- the Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and
founded by Father Luigi Variara in Colombia;
- the Sisters of Charity of Miyasaki,
by Mgr Vincenzo Cimatti and Father Antonio Cavoli in Japan;
- The Salesian Oblates of the Sacred Heart)
founded by Bishop Giuseppe Cognata in Calabria;
- and various other groups. 
These groups, especially the first three
instituted by Don Bosco himself, cannot be considered as isolated entities;
they were born and have always lived in mutual interchange of spiritual
and apostolic values; and in this they have all been the beneficiaries. The
invaluable heritage of Don Bosco was left to all of them together as one single
family.The unifying force of his charism
The Salesian Family of Don Bosco is therefore
a charismatic reality; in other words, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit to
the Church, destined to grow and extend itself among the People of God; it
has a determined and constant scope that transcends the changing circumstances
of time and place. 
The secret of its unified energy and life
is the charism of the Founder,
which is a manifestation both supernatural
(not of flesh and blood) and created (hence human) - a manifestation of the
same uncreated Gift, the Holy Spirit, in the Church.
The expression charism of the Founder
taken on the significant meaning of an experience of the Holy Spirit
is singular, rich and transmissible. 
The Vatican II documents had not yet used the expression charism
of the Founder:
they referred to the spirit of the Founder
general sense of his spiritual, apostolic and distinctive ethos; or even to
his primordial inspiration, particular vocation) distinctive character
or particular purpose. 
Hence these terms
are used with a certain amount of elasticity to signify the Founder's common
It may help to understand the uniqueness of the charism
of our Founder if we set it up beside the founding charisms of other spiritual
Families in the Church such as the Augustinians, Benedictines, Carmelites,
Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, and so on.
The spiritual Family of Don Bosco seeks its
inspiration in the positive humanism of St Francis of Sales, though it has
its own special methods, its own distinctive character. In a sense Don Bosco
wears the garb of our true mentor and source of a unique charismatic experience;
he is the necessary point of reference for all those called by the Spirit
to share his destiny and mission at this point in history, each according
to the particular circumstances of his state in life.
There is a living force that binds the members
of a charismatic family together. It is something held in common and it creates
a kind of consanguinity, a spiritual kinship, between them; it becomes the
very soul of their life-style, their special way of viewing their activities,
the source of their mutual communion.
Don Bosco was eminently practical and a patient
organizer and constantly worked out practical ways to ensure that his experience
of the Holy Spirit
his spirit of the Founder)
should be passed on and perpetuated in a systematic communion
stable structure and harmonious operation. For this reason he had to research,
intuit, revise, experiment and adapt in accordance with the suggestions and
possibilities of the times. Today we would betray his charism if we limited
ourselves to the juridical and ecclesiastical methods for an association:
for (as has been noted) these are subject to change, being dependent on social
needs and ecclesiastical dispositions. Still we must admit that his practical
concern for internal coherence in communion and activity was an integrating
influence on his foundation plan. Indeed this concern is constantly in evidence
in the lengthy founding process by which he set about translating his experience
of the Spirit
into reality. However, let us now reflect on the intimate
nature of the charism of the Founder.
* The source and driving force of this charism
that "first and most necessary gift" 
of life and holiness in the Church.
Charity is in the very heart of a Founder
and directs everything - his ideals, his anxieties, his plans, his concerns,
his quest of ways and means; it gives them their special form and guides them
to their goal. It is the projection of his charity that draws people to him,
co-ordinates and harmonizes the different functions, the many gifts, the various
states and ministries; it sublimates differences into a well organized and
However, in each Founder charity manifests
a uniqueness with specific characteristics. In other words, the vital force
of the charism of a Founder is, after all, a type of charity
from his heart into a vast and congruent field of action.
Every Founder living out and developing his
charity to the full emphasizes certain aspects and thus gives rise to different
spiritual styles and characteristics. Hence it is that Founders manifest
distinctive ways of practicing charity that indeed proclaim the amazing depths
of this virtue: " the Church is beautified with the manifold gifts of
her children, like a bride adorned for her husband (v. Rev. XXI 2), and manifests
in herself the multiform wisdom of God (v. Eph. III
* At this point we should take special note
of the unifying force that carries within itself the type of charity lived
out by the Founder. It is vitally real, it has a fascinating power of attraction,
and it is capable of gathering people together in ever-growing numbers and
uniting them into a mystical kinship. It cannot be identified with the spiritual
characteristics of a ministry (such as priesthood or deaconate, etc.); nor
with a particular state of life (such as celibacy, marriage, widowhood). It
is a divine force that permeates the vital tissue of life and makes possible
the gathering and unifying of different characters, different functions and
the Church, the Holy Spirit (who is uncreated Charity)
unites, vivifies and inspires all the various structures and functions of
the Body of Christ: and by analogy (though to an infinitely lesser degree)
the charism or distinctive type of charity of the Founder (which is a created
gift of the same Holy Spirit) unites, develops and orients the different persons
and values that are assembled together to make up a spiritual Family.
Here we see different temperaments and tastes,
diverse talents and personal gifts, fused into a single communion; and even
different spiritualities that go with the various ministries, states of life
or inspirations in the Church - all are subordinated to the essential membership
of the same Family. Indeed charism
the same thing. In
practice, various spiritualities of different ministries
or states of life can live harmoniously within the same charism.
in a spiritual Family there can be gathered together in complete compatibility
and in various quantities the spirituality of the priest, the lay person,
the religious, the married, the single, the oblate, the victim, and so on.  It
is surely a fine and enriching experience to be a member
of a spiritual Family
where the variegated differences help towards
a clearer self-identification and a greater harmony - not by blurring or
smoothing out the differences but by giving a fillip to the individual identity
The kind of charity that gave life to Don
Bosco's charism is a pastoral charity
distinguished by its special
quality we call Salesian.
This means that we must find the unifying
force of our Family in that kind of priestly love characterized in Don Bosco
by an overwhelming passion to help the young and by his special way of perceiving,
living and communicating the values of the Gospel and translating them into
his plan of operation. He himself summed up this way of charity as a kind
of motto on a coat of arms: Da mihi animas caetera tolle.
At this point we must clear up a misunderstanding
that could cause spiritual deviations.In
every truly apostolic life pastoral charity permeates
the very being of the person: before becoming action
it is a way
it is a participation in the very love of God, a uniting with
him, a self donation and self-annihilation so as to belong utterly to him
and be totally available for working for his Kingdom. Pastoral charity
must not be superficially identified with altruism. First and foremost
it is an intrinsic change of life through which a person lives in intimate
union with the God-Savior and totally at his beck and call for action.
It would be well to ponder this concept, for
it gets to the very root of a genuinely apostolic spirit. Reflection makes
it obvious that the famous dictum agere sequitur esse
existence) should never be taken to mean a division, or a belittling of action
in favor of existence. Sertillange writes with great acuity, "Action
is only a form of existence. When I act I am
the agent. In other words,
I take on a form of activity which is by this very fact a form of being. The
conditions of my being therefore are also the conditions of my action ". 
The activity of pastoral charity is not separate
or inferior to its being: rather it accompanies it, reveals it, sheds luster
on it, fulfils it and expresses its genuine verity. It does not come after
but resides within
as an element of its dynamic identity. It is
radically interior insofar as it is a participation of the love of God.
Thus it is that in the depths of an apostolic
experience of the Holy Spirit (St Francis de Sales' "ecstasy in action")
we find after all a form of the interior life.
This is indeed an illuminating reflection
for us. It makes it ever more clear why pastoral charity is the very heart
of the charism and spirit of Don Bosco. 
Thence flows that supernatural and interior energy that unites
us, gives us our distinctive character, nourishes and enthuses us, brings
us together in communion, invites us to self-donation and holiness, and gives
us that spiritual and instinctive urge for work, inventiveness and sacrifice.
* From this centre
or primary spring
there flow the specifically Salesian traits
of the pastoral charity
of Don Bosco as the elements of his charism. We already know these various
elements well, but it is worthwhile recalling them briefly: they help to better
grasp the nature of the unifying force that moulds us into a spiritual Family. 
The traits of the Salesian communion
by the sons and daughters of Don Bosco are as follows:
- first of all, as a living spring, the
special covenant with God
according to the kind of pastoral charity described
above; this means firstly an intimate union with God the kind Father concerned
to implement a merciful and pedagogical design for salvation, and secondly
a love for our neighbor poor and needy, with a predilection for the young.
- then the Salesian spirit:
our thinking, our conduct, our attitudes, our tastes, preferences, priorities,
our very way of reading the Gospel.
- our mission for the young:
it is our specific participation in the manifold works of the Church for
the salvation of the world.
- the Preventive System:
this is our
practical and distinctive way of pastoral action that takes all the above
three characteristics (charity, the Salesian spirit and our mission of salvation)
and translates them in concrete form among the young.
- a practical merger-plan:
a lifestyle and action that can accept the different community structures
of the various groups and transform them into a certain communion of forces
of all the Salesian Family.
These elements of the charism of Don Bosco
equip the Salesian Family for a specialized activity, making it ready
and able to share work together in the" everyday apostolate of the Oratories".
With the driving force of his charism Don
Bosco unifies into a single concordant and apostolic Family priests, layfolk,
celibates, married, widowed and religious, with all their various ways of
witnessing to the Beatitudes. No one loses his specific spirituality, whether
priestly, lay or religious. The charism of Don Bosco is a superior, overall
and existential force: it accepts individual spiritualities with their special
situations and functions, classifies them and impresses its special character
on them without adding to or subtracting from anything in their natures; indeed
it strengthens and enhances their own special character.
* Just as in the Church everybody possesses
all, each in his own way, so in our Salesian Family everybody possesses all
of the charism of the Founder, each participating and expressing it in his
own way according to his vocation and the measure of the Spirit's gift. The
wealth of a spiritual Family that flows from the unifying force of the Founder's
charism is immense: it extends to such proportions that it is not possible
for each member to live all its elements to the full. All can implement them
up to a point, but each concentrates on certain specific elements for his
own sanctification and the service of others. When all the members join forces
the Family is able to live to the full everyone of its values.
Thus it is that in our Salesian Family we are able to
share a veritable wealth of values, enhearten one another, and benefit from
the example of others: and each becomes more staunch and enthusiastic in
his vocation. We see the consecrated groups emphasizing the energy and drive
of the radical Gospel message. The non-consecrated groups proclaim the centrality
of man, the importance of temporal values and the close and indispensable
link between the consecrated life and the task of transforming the world. 
The priestly members live pastoral
charity in a special way by the exercise of their sacerdotal ministry; 
members, in their many life-styles and lay commitments at all levels, are
able to perform many specialized services in our vast and complex mission
to the young. Furthermore there is a wide range of spiritual aspects in the
different groups: these should be present in every Salesian heart, but they
are more characteristic and more in evidence in certain individual groups.
The Salesian Family as a whole is able to put these special facets at the
disposition of all. The following list is very incomplete but serves to exemplify
kindness and happiness,
educational initiative, untiring animation, research into the common Salesian
heritage, missionary courage.
The Daughters of Mary Help of Christians:
feminine Salesian perspective and delicacy, loyalty and sacrifice after
the example of Mary, service of motherly and sisterly intuition, profound
realistic view of life (ability to use daily
tasks and professions as a means of apostolic commitment, active contribution
to mankind and society.
The Don Bosco Volunteers:
significance of secularity, importance of creature values, quiet enleavening
of the masses, individual personal witness.
The Past Pupils:
binding force of Salesian
education, cultural area a central element for us, importance of an updated
and adequate pedagogy to suit the changing times, pressing need of special
care for the Christian family.
Other Institutes of Salesian Sisters (such
as Fr Variara's Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary)
Bishop Cognata's Oblates of the Sacred Heart):
of suffering and oblation as already instanced in Father Andrew Beltrami.
These Sisters remind all the other members of the Salesian Family that self-oblation
and patient suffering are indispensable for all in life's vicissitudes, misunderstandings,
illnesses, forced inactivity and old age.Other
all have their
own specific characterizations.
The unifying force of Don Bosco's charism
has indeed given rise to a spiritual family that is unique, variegated and
possessing many branches; it constitutes a kind of atmosphere of spiritual
serenity from which no one is excluded; it is open to all races, nationalities
and pluralistic cultures; no continent is excluded. Each one with his own
temperament, his own talents, his own Christian vocation, can cry out, "In
this spiritual Family I am at home".
Every quality, every ecclesial spirituality
and every ministry is respected and promoted. The spirit of the Founder does
not change or suppress the differences: rather does it accept them and further
them so that they can be lived with more enthusiasm and in accordance with
their particular way of holiness and activity in the harmonious union of the
same kind of charity.
Praised be the Lord and our Mother Mary for
raising up the charism of Don Bosco as a great and wonderful gift for the
Church. All together we, the various groups of the Salesian Family, are the
heirs and the bearers of this gift.The renewal of SGC
With Vatican II came a new awakening in the
Church and an in-depth rethinking of its mystery. It renewed its mission in
conformity with the times; it completely refurbished its doctrine of charisms
and invited the spiritual families to reactuate their gifts of the Spirit
by journeying to their origins in quest of the crystalline waters of their
true vocation, renewing it in answer to the needs of the times.
The General Chapters and Assemblies of the
various groups of our Salesian Family have now spent some years of serious
study and painstaking work to implement this exacting task. To us Salesians
first of all by virtue of our vocation and our traditional responsibility 
fell the task of researching Don
Bosco and the common experience of the first century of our existence.
I have already noted how our Special General
Chapter and 21st General Chapter gave careful attention to our vocation with
reference to the Salesian Family. The SGC set out in Document 1. 
Chapter 6, 
the directives and basic doctrine for the direction renewal should
take. GC21 appointed a Councilor for the Salesian Family:
article in the Constitutions reads, "The Councilor for the Salesian Family
has the task of sensitizing and animating the Congregation for the role entrusted
to it in the Salesian Family in accordance with article 5". 
By the appointment of this special Councilor
the Congregation has renewed and boosted Don Bosco's desire that the Salesian
spirit should make the greatest possible impact on the world. He himself had
used practical means such as the media for this purpose, and in a special
way he made use of dedicated people who sympathized with his mission for
the young and the masses - and these were the members of his Salesian Family.It
would be greatly helpful, dear confreres, to study again,
privately and in community, this Chapter of the SGC: it is still the basic
guiding text for the regenerating of our Salesian Family.
A careful perusal of the capitular document
will highlight two complementary movements that renewal must pay heed
to: a progressive clarification of the identity of each individual group}
and a growing process of integration and communion
with some kind
of supporting basic uniting principles.
The first of these movements calls for each
group to spell out more accurately its own distinctive characteristics as
members of a Family that does not seek uniformity but a harmonious co-ordination
with one single spirit.
This will make for a clearer awareness of individual
the need for a common frame of reference. 
The second movement calls urgently for greater
communication and collaboration. 
It also demands the recognition, defense and renewal of a common
that is regulated by a statute of practical principles
- even if reduced to an indispensable minimum. This statute would adequately
preserve and promote unity in our charismatic communion.
Nowadays relationships multiply daily between
man- and man; the need for communication and united effort becomes more necessary;
and it would seem more urgent than ever to unite all the sons and daughters
of Don Bosco together and regenerate our Salesian Family.
In this way"
the riches of each group will become the riches of all", and our common
mission to youth will increase in strength and effectiveness. "We shall
be enlightened on the relevance for today
and the authenticity of
the gift of the Spirit
made to Don Bosco and of the gifts that the same
Spirit in like manner bestows on us. We shall have a better appreciation of
the force and apostolic fruitfulness
of our mission and of the method
to be adopted. Through sharing and collaboration we shall live the Gospel
to our mutual enrichment. Dynamic fidelity to Don Bosco through this sharing
and collaboration will extend the influence of his pastoral insight and fatherliness.
This will shine all the more brightly, because every increase in brotherliness,
unity and commitment on the part of those who consider themselves his sons
adds to his stature" . 
From the preparations for the SGC up to today
there have been nearly twenty years of work put into initiating and developing
what we could call the renewal plan
for the Salesian Family.
examining this period would be struck by the obvious presence of. the Holy
Spirit. The" project" had its beginnings when the Salesians set
about the renewal and updating program required by Vatican II. The first
step was to explore the will of
the Father. The efforts of
Bosco to unite the forces of
good for the benefit of
and society became more obvious, more pressing, more relevant than ever. It
was also clear that although cultural and evolutionary changes have modified
the mode and structure of
the union between the Salesians, Daughters
Mary Help of
Christians and Co-operators of
day, the deep-down values have remained unchanged. Factors today make that
union even more necessary and relevant:
modern ecclesiology favors communion, the requirements
of evangelization call for it, the new problems of
youth and the masses
need it. From the two sessions of
Special Provincial Chapters the precapitular
commissions received the proposal to renew the Salesian Family. The request
came from the grassroots, i.e., individual confreres and communities, and
it became one of
the projects of the capitulars.
The SGC went into the various facets of
this project with great thoroughness. It finally came up with the formula
we all know.
Between SGC and GC21
spontaneously embraced the Salesian Family. It was clear that far from considering
the project as a possible intrusion into their lives or a diminution of
their autonomy (by the role played by the SDBs) they considered both project
and SDB role as a grace that would help them be more faithful to Don Bosco.
These sentiments were more than mere words: the" incorporation"
found its way into quite a few Constitutions and Regulations and there were
many requests to join the Family. There were meetings and live-ins at all
levels, and bulletins of communication and fellowship. Practically everywhere
enthusiasm and definite spiritual fervor abounded. Whatever shadows there
were due rather to the novelty of
the venture and its lack of
- but they were weak repercussions and in no way comparable to the positive
This was the state of
was convoked. Its agenda made no reference to the Salesian Family,
but the matter came up automatically: first there was the assessment of
how SGC's directives had been implemented, and secondly there had been
specific requests by some fifteen Provincial Chapters. A novelty to be noted
was the intervention of
various groups whom the SGC had accepted as
the Family. They sent messages which all had one common
denominator: the request that the Congregation take steps to fulfill its animating
and pastoral role towards them and carry out
its liaison duties; and
consequently to create the necessary apparatus therefore. In fact they had
their representatives in certain commissions and in the Chapter Assembly.GC21
made some extremely important decisions for the Salesian
Family: it instituted a Councilor to animate the Congregation at world level
and to link together the various groups; it reaffirmed the validity of
the project agreed on at the SGC; it called for a vocation apostolate
for the Salesian Family; it included the Salesian Family in formation programs;
it re-emphasized that preference be given to lay-helpers who had had adequate
formation; it committed itself to the training of good animators for all
the groups - this was stressed as one of the priority tasks of all Provincials
in the closing address of the Chapter. 
During these last four years, in meetings
and joint visits of the Rector Major with the Provincials throughout the
different cultural areas of the world, animation of the Salesian Family was
always one of the essential matters discussed.
There is proof in plenty that there is no
longer any lack of conviction or acceptance in the Congregation and that
great progress has been made in putting theory into practice. Studies have
been undertaken, and there have been many initiatives involving animation,
collaboration, communion and communication. Important events involving the
Salesian Family have increased in number: the Salesian Missions Centenary)
the Centenary of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians)
Centenary of the death of St Mary Mazzarello,
and various other anniversaries
with the Rector Major present. Furthermore there are ever-increasing requests
for his spiritual direction for the various groups. There has been greater
collaboration in studying and researching the Salesian vocation and in seeking
common areas of commitment such as Project Africa. All this is clear proof
that the Salesian Family with its glorious past holds fascinating promises
for the future.
My dear confreres, we are all called (especially
we Salesians) to work with energy to achieve a genuine and creative reinstatement
of the Salesian Family in the Church. It was Don Bosco's wish that the binding
influence, the stabilizing factor, the driving force in the Salesian Family,
should be the Salesians themselves, and hence we must dedicate ourselves
in all seriousness" to arranging fraternal exchanges and studying together
in the context of the joint pastoral plan of the local Church the best ways
of carrying out a practical and effective evangelization and catechesis"
This responsibility should be assumed and
carried out in the first place at world level and by the Provincial Conferences
and particularly by Provincials and their Councils. More than anyone else
these latter have" the capacity to manifest this unity in mission and
Salesian spirit in its plurality of forms and the creativity of each group
for the genera] benefit of the others". These are indispensable elements
that will "make us more acceptable in the communion of salvation (the
Church), more effective in our apostolic work, and richer in personal fulfillment". 
This renewal will grow and progress only if
we are faithful to the origins of our vocation; these we must cherish deeply,
viewing them historically and objectively and with the insight of Don Bosco's
sons.Forging ahead together
These two concepts, forging ahead
aptly describe the way we should tackle the task of re-establishing
the Salesian Family. This is a challenge to us to boost our communion and
our mission, and we must heed it. Forging ahead
refers to our mission;
indicates our communion. So let us forge ahead together
in our communion to achieve a more effective mission.
among poor youth and the
masses must expand in undertakings, in new foundations, in apostolic creativeness.
Our communion as a Family
in authenticity and organization. Certainly every group has its own identity
and corresponding autonomy; but for us today, the accent is on communion.
We have our historical origins to salvage, that union Don Bosco wanted, and
we must revive it, increase it, renew it.
My contacts with the various groups in the
different continents prompt me to suggest that we forge ahead together
with the four practical objectives that follow:
OBJECTIVE I: Stepping
up our knowledge of Don Bosco and consequently our pastoral charity.
is a valid and holy objective. Together with the whole Salesian Family we
must promote a better understanding of our common charism; and every person
in every group must intensify the kind of charity practiced so heroically
by Don Bosco and that characterizes and defines exactly what we mean by his"
We must bear in mind that charity is never out of
date or subject to individual will or judgment: it is a living and ecclesial
It is living
because it is a real gift
of the Holy Spirit for the present and the future. Like the Holy Spirit its
author, it is essentially creative; it loves and serves the persons of today:
the three Persons
of the Trinity whose loving embrace enfolds the
end of the century in which we live, and today's young persons who
greet the third millennium.
It is ecclesial
because it shares and
expresses the life and holiness of the Church; and this close-knit Body of
Christ is under the vital influence of the Holy Spirit who lives within it
to help it grow as a living and united organism.
Thus this charity is not only real
by the Church through her bishops and in the light of the
ecclesiality of Don Bosco (who belongs to the whole Church and not just to
It is a charity vitally linked with two reference
points in the Church: the bishops and the Founder.
Boosting our pastoral charity is not a matter
of mere words and recalling the past: it means really loving; making an in-depth
study of pastoral charity under the guidance of the Pope, the bishops and
the successors of Don Bosco; responding creatively to the demands of persons
and times just as our Founder did in the 19th century. This is only possible
if we take our holiness seriously, giving priority (as I wrote in my last
letter to you) 
our daily and sincere encounter with Christ
and our zealous commitment
Dear confreres, to reinvigorate our Salesian
charism means nothing other than REPLANNING OUR SALESIAN HOLINESS TOGETHER.
As Don Bosco once said, "Salesians must be holy or they are not Salesians". 
This then is the first objective that will
prosper the Salesian Family: forging ahead together
to develop that
kind of pastoral charity that overwhelms us with Don Bosco's passionate call,
Da mihi animas, caetera tolle.
OBJECTIVE II: Evangelization
of the young.
charity implies a special apostolic sensitivity to the needs of the young.
This work should be chosen today, as it was yesteryear in Valdocco, because
of a deep understanding of the crying needs of the moment. If our "Oratorian
charity" is to be a practical response to the challenge of the very real
needs of the young, it follows that a Family wishing to centre its evangelizing
apostolate among the young will never limit its educative initiative. Our
action should resemble the soil in Spring from which fresh flowers continually
Here indeed is an enormous task for
all the Family.
- We must present the Gospel so that the young see it
as a genuine and indispensable message for them.
- We must study together how to reinstate
at the centre of the culture we are trying to sort out with
the young so that they may rediscover the true meaning of human life.
- We must help each other to find out ways
by speaking a language they understand.
- We must courageously and perseveringly join
forces and renew our ways and means of being mediators
for the young,
for we know we have profound problems in this area on account of the cultural
transition that has been going on for some years now.
This is a complex objective of vast proportions,
and it has already obliged us to make a fresh start with our Preventive System
by formulating with patience and understanding a revised educative and
and we have also for the same reason proposed an updated
scheme for youth spirituality.
Let us get together in our Family's
various groups and share our ideas. It is thus that we shall make greater
progress together as specialists in the evangelization of the young.
It should be noted that since the Salesian
Family belongs to the Church, its youth apostolate should be conceived and
programmed within the structure of the local Church (national, regional, diocesan).
To care for a section of the youthful flock using one's own style of action
is not being a splinter-group with no interest in the coordination or apostolic
aims promoted by the bishops. Unfortunately, however, there are difficulties
of this kind here and there, even among us, that smack of certain attitudes
that belong to the past and should be overcome with courage.
OBJECTIVE III: Giving
priority to the specific formation of each group, and involving the laity.
It is fundamental for all the Family that
each group foster its own identity and see to its specific formation and our
common relationship. This is absolutely necessary for the well-being and growth
of communion. Each group must have clear ideas about its own identity so that
it can make its practical contribution to the general communion of the Family.
We have already seen clearly that the unity
of Don Bosco's charism does not suppress these differences but rather welcomes
them, enleavens them and enhances their apostolic output.
In addition to fostering the identity of each
group there is another pressing aim that we all need to join forces to implement:
we must publicize and share our Salesian values with as many layfolk as possible.
Here I refer to the laity in the sense defined by Vatican II.
In the Salesian Family there is an enormous
area for layfolk: among the Co-operators, Past Pupils and (even further afield)
among the co-workers in our various undertakings and among the many well-wishers
who are happy to consider themselves as "Friends of Don Bosco".
We would do well not to underrate the importance of these innumerable "Friends
of Don Bosco": they are a kind of extension of the Salesian Family in
the broad sense and become our friends through common interests, interior
impulses, sympathies, movements and joint efforts.
Associations of Co-operators and Past Pupils
could be divided into smaller groups with the aim of perfecting and stimulating
their Salesian character. In fact there are some of these sub-groups already
in existence: the Young Co-operators
(very wide-spread), the Don
(for married groups in Spain), small groups
of Past Pupils
with special commitment to cultural or scholastic initiatives,
and various Marian and similar associations.
Furthermore, the well-wishers
and" Friends of Don Bosco" open up possibilities for doing good
in many urgent ways (such as, for instance, the mass media).
In all this area special attention should
be paid to the formation of these layfolk in the light of Vatican II's abundant
teachings and the post-conciliar documents of the Magisterium; and of course
we must add our own special Salesian touch from Don Bosco's charism, remembering
that he would have us guide these good people into an apostolate of a practical
nature. He was often heard to stress that works of charity should be directed
into practical channels.
Involving the laity in this way widens the
horizons of every group in our family and is a spur to hasten and improve
such coordination and collaboration. We are a Family of apostles and not
enclosed exclusively within the exigencies of a here-and-now enterprise or
OBJECTIVE IV: A
united pastoral vocation.
Lastly let us remember that the Salesian vocation
is characterized by that kind of charity that is the source of all the spiritual
heritage of Don Bosco. It is basic and common to all the members of the Family,
but is implemented in different ways by each group, category and person. This
variegated communion offers considerable advantages in collaboration, especially
in the vocation apostolate.
When we remember that Don Bosco was quite
exceptional in seeking out innumerable vocations for the Church, it is a natural
conclusion that his Family should also distinguish itself in the fostering
of vocations among the young as a part of the Salesian Youth Apostolate.
Let us never forget that the duty of guiding and educating the young in
the discernment of their individual vocations" is born of the young person's
right to be guided: this right comes before the particular vocation situation
in the Church. This guidance is basic to a vocation, which is a divine call
asking for a positive response that is linked to psychological and religious
forces; and these forces call for the appropriate educative and pastoral guidance". 
Then of course it is urgent to do something
to better the worrying vocation situation of each group of the Salesian Family,
and we can effect far more if we work together. Helpful activities are the
organization of groups for prayer, study, information, planning, exchanges
of experiences; also meetings in guidance centers, youth movements and so
The smaller sub-groups of Young Co-operators
and Past Pupils should receive special care. It is presumed that there will
always be good animation in both of these areas for their proper growth and
development; and it is common experience that they are fruitful sources of
vocations for the other groups in the Salesian Family. In the last seven years,
for instance, 70 Young Co-operators have become SDB novices and 52 FMA novices;
18 have entered diocesan seminaries and 20 have applied to other Congregations.
I invite all to ponder on the vocation-findings
of the 9th Salesian Family Spirituality Week
held last January. They
are reprinted in these ACTS
on page 65.Problems and prospects
Obviously the Salesian Family has its problems,
and not all of them minor and easily solved. Don Bosco himself was confronted
with many and tackled them with patience, hope and infinite perseverance,
buoyed up always by his great love of the Christ-Savior of the young and always
ready to meet the challenge of the new and ever-increasing needs of youth.
Our Superior Council has dedicated many meetings
to solving problems where possible and seeking out guidelines for dealing
with the many facets of a process still evolving and necessarily conditioned
by today's outlook. They are wide-spread difficulties experienced by both
men and women in our Family and they have been brought to our attention mainly
by the Councilor for the Salesian Family.
Before mentioning some of the genuine problems
I should like to point out that many of the difficulties one hears of from
time to time are only problems because people have not perfected their knowledge
of the true meaning of the Salesian Family; and maybe this could really be
our first problem to solve: at all levels of the Congregation we need to
check on our mental outlook. Besides the contents of SGC and GC21 we need
to read up what the other groups have said regarding the Salesian Family
and the way they feel about belonging to it.
At any rate, it could be useful to refer briefly
to some of the more significant problems. They are of a practical nature and
may help us reflect and find ways and means to open up new prospectives.- The first problem:
How can the Congregation better realize and implement
its special duties towards the Family? "The members of the Society have
the special responsibility in the Salesian Family of preserving unity of
spirit and encouraging those friendly contacts which lead to mutual enrichment
and to a more fruitful apostolate". 
This implies being able to give adequate encouragement to the
various groups both as autonomous and specific identities and especially
as belonging to the same communion having the same spirituality and the same
mission. This is not an easy task and there is much to be done: still, some
progress has been made. Fortunately an in-depth study of the history of the
Salesian Family is already in progress and the genuine thinking of Don Bosco
is being researched. This month there was a Symposium
et the Generalate
on this very matter.
The main groups of the Salesian Family have
a century of helpful matter to cull from: reports, enterprises, statements
of the Holy See, directives from Superiors and numerous meaningful events.
All this heritage is being studied, and this is history that will illumine
us and help us to be more accurate and courageous in our animation.
For this reason the recent Ratio
given importance to the study of the Salesian Family in the formation curriculum
of our confreres. 
- Another problem: to establish what degree
of responsibility and relationship the Congregation has or should have in
regard to each group.
In the communion of the Family each group
has its own distinctive link with the Congregation. Our animation must be
suited to the idiom of each, although there will be a large area of animation
that will be common ground for all members of the Family. For a right insistence
on communion it is necessary to know and respect the autonomy and juridical
status of each group, and also the different needs and requirements expected
of the animation of the Congregation, so that we can render a service that
is appropriate and in keeping with our practical capabilities. All this makes
it necessary that structures be set up at Provincial level for formation,
animation, communication, etc., for the Salesian Family.- A particularly sensitive problem is to decide
on the criteria for belonging to the Salesian Family.
Article 5 of the Constitutions includes the
the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians,
(by virtue of their history and foundation) and the Past Pupils
virtue of their Salesian
education). The Don Bosco Volunteers
groups have confirmed their membership in official declarations, in General
Chapters, in Assemblies, in Statutes, Rules, Constitutions and Regulations,
and also by their practical actions.
Other groups of a later vintage are related
by foundation ties to the Salesians of Daughters of Mary Help of Christians
and consider themselves as belonging to the Salesian Family in practice: they
have modified their Constitutions and official documents to express their
desire to belong in their own distinctive way to the communion of the charism
of Don Bosco. 
It was considered timely to come to an agreement
on what the criteria of Salesianity
should be and to draw up the lines
of procedure according to which the Rector Major and his Council, in agreement
with the Superiors of other groups, could accept them officially into the
The Councilor for the Salesian Family discussed
this matter with the Superiors of the principal groups and some of our researchers.
They put together a number of observations and criteria that were then studied
and approved" ad experimentum" by the Superior Council: these will
be taken into account in such a procedure. In this issue of the Acts,
61, will be found the Guidelines adopted by the Superior Council for acceptance
into the Salesian Family.
-Another problem frequently
aired: How exactly do the Past Pupils belong to the Salesian Family?
The SGC set the ball rolling by declaring
that "they belonged to the Salesian Family by virtue of their Salesian
education that could express itself in various apostolic commitments".
I would seem that to answer the question regarding the nature of their membership
and solve the resulting problems we should examine their apostolic commitments
in the context of their culture and especially in the educational field (which
is the natural area of the Salesian mission); also we would need to check
on the values of the Preventive System, which is one of the elements of the
charism of Don Bosco.
Meanwhile in many places the Association of
Past Pupils is flourishing and full of energy and deserves our generous help
in the way of animation.
Finally we are confronted with the profound
cultural and social evolution
of our times, the ecclesiological contributions
of Vatican II
the renewal of religious life, the revival of the laity's
role in the People of God, the advancement of women in society and the Church,
the changed youth situations, the ideological pluralism and political schemes
of so many countries, the greater awareness and dynamism of nations, and
the problems of certain continents with their multitudes of young persons.
When we reflect on these conditions we see them as further challenges to us
to be loyal to our Salesian Family identity and promote its membership, activities
and apostolic effectiveness.
I have noted the above problems to help all
to understand that we have much researching and assessing to carry out in
an evolving process that has barely begun.
One thing however is clear: the Salesian Family
is becoming ever more important with the passage of time.Of vital importance for our future
In the 40s and 50s of the 19th century God
inspired Don Bosco with the embryo of a vast project. It grew and evolved
true to its nature even during the life of the Founder. Don Bosco was a diocesan
priest in the local Church of Turin when he took the first steps to develop
the embryo. He united various forces to help poor and abandoned youth, and
began his Oratory apostolate. Thus, gradually and providentially, there developed
the more organized, varied and stable structure of a true spiritual Family
in the universal Church. In Don Bosco's mind there was a growing and ever
clearer awareness that he was called to be a Founder in the Church. (In 1859
he founded the Salesians, in 1872 the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians,
in 1876 the Co-operators). He thus became the initiator of a new charism within
the People of God, a new source of distinctive holiness and apostolate.
Already in 1899 the February Salesian Bulletin
descried the heritage of Don Bosco as a Founder: "We are happy to
seize every occasion possible to point out to our Co-operators that they form
with us and the Sisters of Don Bosco one large Family animated by the same
spirit in the bonds of a wonderful Christian fellowship". 
now, with its distinct basic groups, in progressing and developing" in
harmony with the Body of Christ, itself in continual growth ". 
II the Family has enjoyed a much clearer awareness of its charismatic nature.
Now it is up to all sons and daughters
of Don Bosco to unite and foster its identity and vitality. In this all members
are co-responsible; and we, dear confreres, have the specific task (in virtue
of our vocation and tradition) of rendering the service of animation. It is
our very special responsibility.
To prove our love for Don Bosco let us make
every effort to have a better knowledge of the Salesian Family; let us sacrifice
ourselves and with courage and understanding promote and reinvigorate its
communion and its mission. Let us delve into its history and origins and do
all we can to increase its fidelity and membership.
May Mary Help of Christians who guided
Don Bosco in all things enlighten us too and help us.
Every blessing for a happy Easter.
Sincerely yours in the "Oratorian
heart" of Don Bosco,
EGIDIO VIGANÒ Rector Major
Symposium on the
Salesian Family, 19-22 February 1982.
New Constitutions FMA. article 3.
ASC no. 295.
ASC no. 301.
Conference to the
Co-operators of Borgo San Martino, 1 July 1880.
Letter to John Cagliero,
27 April 1876.
P. Braido: 11 progetto
operativo di Don Bosco e l'utopia della societa cristiana.
Letter of presentation
of the Rector Major, Father Luigi Ricceri, no. 4, p. XVIII.
Lumen Gentium 46.
Lumen Gentium 44.
Egidio Vigan: Rediscovering
the spirit of Mornese, 24 February 1981; v. ASC no. 301, pp. 25-26.
P. Braido: II progetto
operativo di Don Bosco e l'utopia della societa cristiana.
XI 85; IV 93.
St John Bosco: Memorie
dell 'Oratorio di S. Francesco di Sales, ed. SDB Rome, p. 16.
Memorie Biografiche XVIII 160-161.
For a more complete list of the various
groups, v. Boll. Salesiano, 1 September 1981, p. 11.
Lumen Gentium 45;
Perfectae Caritatis 2. 20, 22; Christus Dominus 33, 35 i & ii.
Lumen Gentium 42.
lumen Gentium 41.
Sertillange: II cristianesimo
e la filosofia.
Egidio Vigan: Non secondo la carne ma nella spirito. 1978. pp. 90-99.
Lumen Gentium 31.
SGC: Salesians of Don Bosco in the Church; vocation and identity of
the Salesian Society today.
SGC: Too Salesian
GC 21: 402-403.
SGC: 166-170: Differences.
SGC: 161-165: Elements
SGC 174-176: Motives
contents and methods.
ASC no. 303.
p. 68 in these Acts.
Const. 5; v. also
SGC 189; GC21 75. 402. 403.
FSDB (= Ratio) 54.
57; 175. 182. 234; 272; 368, 375; 399.
SGC 156, 168.
The Daughters of
the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, found. ed by Fr. Variara, have requested
to belong officially to the Salesian Family. Their request has been granted
-- v. p. 74 of these Acts.
February 1899, p. 29.